Wadax Reference Server and Akasa Optical Interface – Part 2

What comes out… (once you add the Reference Power Supply)

By Roy Gregory

In many respects, this has been one of the most challenging reviews that I have ever written. That’s one of the reasons that I have separated it into two distinct parts, the first in the form of an interview that discusses the thinking behind the product, this second part that discusses its sonic and musical attributes. Not only is the technology teetering somewhere beyond the bleeding edge of accepted understanding and what are considered ‘proven’ approaches, the range of possible results, from distinctly ordinary to musically spectacular is far wider, the variables are far harder to control and the range of options within the system itself further adds to that range of variables. What started out as a server review has morphed and expanded to encompass an entire replay chain and the options it offers.

Like any other review, the variables start with what might be termed the ‘situational’ option: choices of cables and supports, partnering equipment and systems. Ironically, in this case those choices are pretty cut and dried – and covered in the associated installation notes – https://gy8.eu/blog/installation-notes-wadax-atlantis/. Digital signal connection options are limited (USB or the proprietary Akasa optical interlink) while AC cable and grounding arrangements follow the overall system topology/norms. Likewise, the price and ambitions of the Reference Server dictate that it be used with the highest-quality ancillaries available, both in terms of partnering DAC and also the system as a whole. With those factors in mind, the Ref Server was hooked up with the same Odin 2 power cord and QKore grounding components as the rest of the system (in this case a QK6 dedicated to the Ref DAC, Server and transport). Support was a combination of an HRS RXR rack with GPA levellers and Apex feet with RevOpod couplers under the electronic components. Like the other units, the Ref Server was carefully levelled and the loading on its feet equalised. The clever, vertically adjustable bracket, that supports the USB connection was matched to each different USB cable – to readily audible effect.

Associated equipment included amplification from CH Precision (10 Series and 1 Series) and VTL (TL-7.5 III and S-400 II) with speakers from Stenheim (the Ultime 2 and A5 SE) Göbel (the Divin Noblesse and Marquise) and Wilson (the Sasha DAW), with and without PureLow LO subs. The rest of the cabling was complete looms of Nordost Odin 2, Valhalla 2 or AudioQuest Dragon, used with QKore and CAD grounding boxes and Chord GroundARAYs. Alternative source components and DACs included the CH D1.5/X1 and C1.2/X1/T1, the Wadax Atlantis Reference transport, the GPA Monaco v2.0 turntable, with Kuzma or Thales Statement tonearms, cartridges from Fuuga, Lyra and Xquisite. The phono-stages were the CH P1/X1 or VTL’s TP-6.5 II.

Then, late in the day, the situation was complicated by the arrival of the Reference Power Supply, a full-width, ultra low-noise supply dedicated to the Reference Server. Along with the matching Akasa Reference DC cables to link the Reference Power Supply to the Ref Server or the Ref DAC’s power supplies to its head unit , these not only introduced new system/upgrade options along with the question of priorities, but elevated system performance to a whole new level. The stock Ref Server and Ref DAC already represented the best streaming solution I’d ever heard or used, with a sense of natural, unimpeded musical flow and clarity of structure and purpose that is a world away from the fractured, stilted and gutless sound generated by most streaming solutions. The Reference Power Supply builds on that solid foundation, fleshing it out with a dramatic reduction in grain and noise floor, an increase in dynamic range and authority, musical substance and presence. Throw in the Akasa DC cables and they add finesse, delicacy, micro-dynamic discrimination, transparency, focus and immediacy. Together, they don’t just lift the performance, they shift it to another plane completely. Many reviewers and listeners have already commented that the Ref DAC and Ref Server don’t just sound better than, but also sound unlike other digital replay chains. Adding the Reference Power Supply and Akasa DC cables makes you realise just how wide that gulf is. Or to put it another way, just how close the Wadax components move file replay performance towards the ideal, different to but alongside other, far more mature formats.